ENSWORTH TIGERS (4-0, 1-0) at BAYLOR RED RAIDERS (4-0, 2-0)
Last time: Ensworth won 28-21 in last year's Division II-AA state final.
This time: Ensworth's scoring defense so far has been superior to that of its title team when the Tigers gave up at least 14 points to 10 of 11 opponents. Fourteen is this season's high allowed, and they've registered two shutouts. The Red Raiders want to keep Ensworth's explosive offense on the sideline as much as possible. That means they need time-consuming scoring marches. Ensworth coach Ricky Bowers said every close game is decided by turnovers and penalties and thinks this one has that kind of potential.
Time to shine: Ensworth needs a huge perfornance from junior RB and returner Corn Elder, and usually gets one. He's rushed for 580 yards, averaging almost 10 yards per carry. Coach's son Andrew Bowers is a junior QB and has completed 26 of 45 passes for 525 yards. He's thrown for eight TDs and Elder has run for eight. FB Austin Prevost is Elder's primary lead blocker and had 96 tackles at LB last year. Baylor returns its offensive line -- four seniors and a junior -- intact. LT Barrett Gouger and C Chase Beard are three-year starters. QB Matthew Ollerich has a stable of RBs to turn to, and he's produced 80-yard scoring runs against Bradley Central and Montgomery Bell Academy. In addition to having several touchbacks on kickoffs, Henrique Ribeiro has made a 57-yard FG. Andrew Priddy has boomed a 62-yard punt.
RED BANK LIONS (3-0, 1-0) at HIXSON WILDCATS (3-0, 1-0)
Last time: Red Bank won 33-0.
This time: The last time these teams entered their matchup with both undefeated was 2000, the year of the Lions' run to a state championship. It was the third game of the season and Red Bank won 45-7. The Wildcats are still going no-huddle but have run more than passed in wins over Walker Valley, Howard and Marion County. Red Bank has been explosive at times in wins over Soddy-Daisy, East Ridge and Walker Valley.
Time to shine: Red Bank QB Niquia McDuffie and his favorite target, Deres Benn, need to continue their big-play ways because the Lions' defense, led by Jake Parker and Demetrius Williams, will have its hands full with an experienced Hixson offensive line, RB Clarencio Holmes and QB Justin Mathieson.
CLEVELAND BLUE RAIDERS (1-3, 0-1) at WALKER VALLEY MUSTANGS (0-3, 0-0)
Last time: Cleveland won 42-0 last year.
This time: Somebody will have to step up in this contest. The Mustangs have allowed 37.3 points a game and have allowed at least 35 points in nine straight games dating back to last season, but the Raiders have scored only five touchdowns and have depended primarily on their defense.
Time to shine: Cleveland quarterback Chad Voytik (6-1, 200) has accounted for over 700 yards of total offense -- almost 80 percent of the team's total. The Raiders defense, led by end Henry McClendon (6-2, 245) and Jesse Jones (5-11, 215), will try to stop Walker Valley tailback Kelvin Wells, Jr. (5-11, 170). Wells will get help from wingback Gabe Cartwright (6-1, 170).
OOLTEWAH OWLS (3-1, 1-0) at McMINN COUNTY CHEROKEES (2-2, 1-0)
Last time: Owls won 17-9 last year.
This time: The matchup pits two of District 5-AAA's top teams, both coming off sub-par seasons after competing for the regular-season championship in 2009. The Cherokees won that game 20-17 in overtime.
Time to shine: Ooltewah has relied on its passing game, with receiver Mikhail Creech (6-3, 175) being the main target for quarterback Bradley Stephens (6-3, 170). Desmond Pittman (5-10, 235) has been big in the run game. The Cherokees have playmakers in receivers Cedric Nevins (6-1, 210) and Dorian Simpson (5-9, 155) and quarterback Nathan Simbeck (6-4, 185).
TYNER RAMS (0-3, 0-1) at EAST RIDGE PIONEERS (1-2, 0-1)
Last time: Tyner won 29-7 last year.
This time: The Rams are trying to avoid being 0-4 for the first time since 1974. They'll get their chance against an East Ridge program that hasn't beat them since 1996.
Time to shine: Joseph Sturkey and Bobby Hendricks are among the leaders of the Tyner offense. The Pioneers' attack has been led by the quarterback tandem of Demetrius Bumpass and Eric McCurdy, while Mike Johnson has been the leader defensively.
BRAINERD PANTHERS (2-1, 1-0) at EAST HAMILTON HURRICANES (1-3, 1-0)
Last time: East Hamilton won 24-19.
This time: The Hurricanes' offensive philosophy is to pound, and coach Ted Gatewood would love nothing better than a clock-eating ball-control game against the quick-strike Panthers, who have had two weeks to prepare.
Time to shine: Maleek Rooks has been the Panthers' go-to guy on both sides of the ball but is especially dangerous offensively as both a receiver and as a trick-play runner. Their top rushing threat has been freshman Calvin Davenport. East Hamilton's Logan Jackson is averaging more than 100 yards per game, and sophomore QB Hunter Moore has picked up his game and is completing 54 percent of his passes. Brainerd LB Isaiah Hayes is averaging 14 tackles per game.
CENTRAL PURPLE POUNDERS (1-2, 0-1) at HOWARD HUSTLIN' TIGERS (0-3, 0-1)
Last time: Howard won 19-6.
This time: Central has yet to show much offensive punch since a season-opening slugfest victory over Polk County. Howard has shown flashes and looked vastly improved in a close loss last week to Boyd-Buchanan. It's likely that Howard will crowd the line of scrimmage defensively because the Pounders average less than a half-dozen throws per game.
Time to shine: LB Nik Timoshchuk has been Central's defensive anchor but also is their second-leading rusher behind Robert Cobb, who can break a big play at any time. LaWayne Ruffin and Rayshawn Moore have been the Tigers' primary offensive threats, and Ruffin gained 92 hard-earned yards against unbeaten Boyd-Buchanan.
GRUNDY COUNTY YELLOW JACKETS (2-2, 0-1) at SIGNAL MOUNTAIN EAGLES (3-1, 1-0)
Last time: First meeting.
This time: Grundy County is coming off a 29-14 win over Whitwell while Signal Mountain will try to rebound from a 72-35 loss to Blackman. Signal already has knocked off defending District 7-AA champion Bledsoe County, and Grundy, with a district loss to Sequatchie, needs a win to remain in the race for a playoff berth.
Time to shine: The Yellow Jackets depend heavily on RB Johnny Cook, who's averaging 137 rushing yards per game, while Signal has relied more on QB Reese Phillips and WRs Will Queen and Jon Patton. However, the Eagles also can run with the likes of Zack Bowman, Tim McClendon and Andrew Price.
NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (3-1, 0-1) AT BLEDSOE COUNTY WARRIORS (2-1, 0-1)
Last time: Bledsoe County won 39-7.
This time: Bledsoe has had an extra week to prepare for this one, but the Warriors have had teammate Kainen Boring on their minds. The junior dropped in practice last week and remains in intensive care at Erlanger hospital. Notre Dame had an extra day of preparation after a 35-0 shutout of Taft Youth Center on Sept. 8.
Time to shine: Irish have a revamped offense that depends heavily on the passing game with QB Josh Moore, who has 11 TD passes with just one interception in their 3-1 start. When he isn't throwing to Matt Reilly (119 yards per game), he can hand off to Shaqualm McCoy, who has nine TDs and is averaging 151 yards per game. Bledsoe counters with versatile Brandon Smith, who's contributing a combined 177 rushing/receiving yards per game. Jeremiah Gilbert is adding 81 receiving yards per game, and Holden Boynton is proving to be a strong second rushing threat.
FATHER RYAN IRISH (3-1, 0-1) at McCALLIE BLUE TORNADO (2-1, 0-1)
Last time: Father Ryan won 34-7 last year.
This time: Something has to give tonight when Father Ryan's defense and the Blue Tornado's offense are on the field. Each of those usually strong units has struggled once this season. The Irish gave up seven points or less in their victories and surrendered 34 in their loss to Baylor. McCallie twice has topped 50 points but was held to 10 in a loss to Ensworth.
Time to shine: Father Ryan junior RB Rafael Hopkins has 80 carries for 448 yards and five TDs and also helps at CB opposite senior Ryan Bossung. Rounding out a formidable secondary are juniors Bill Stejskal and Jamonte Graham, who is also the Irish's QB and returns punts. Luke Strebel has a 41-yard FG. McCallie RB Daniel McClure averages 145.7 yards per game and has rushed for 6 TDs. QB and fellow senior Trent Lusk has been efficient through the air, completing 71.4 percent of his 42 throws for 461 yards and four TDs. Senior LBs Hayden Cronan and Eric Wolf have more than 20 tackles each. Classmate Arturo Rocha hasn't missed an extra point (15) or field goal (2) and has the ability to put kickoffs through the end zone.
BOYD-BUCHANAN BUCCANEERS (4-0, 1-0) at GRACE ACADEMY GOLDEN EAGLES (2-2, 0-0)
Last time: Boyd-Buchanan won 32-0 last year.
This time: This likely will determine the District 5-A championship. Grace, which is averaging 35 points per game, proved it can play defense as well last week by holding a Lookout Valley team that had scored 40-plus points in two of its previous three games to a season-low six. Boyd-Buchanan has outscored its last four district opponents an average of 33-2.
Time to shine: Bucs DB Kyle Thomas intercepted two passes in the final two minutes last week to preserve a win at Howard. Chase Reed ran for more than 100 yards for the second straight week, and Jim Cardwell has thrown for more than 100 in every game so far. Grace QB Josh Smith has two big-play threats in WRs Corey Nelson and Louis Savard, while RB Will Slack ranks among the area's scoring leaders. Austin Powell and Cooper Wittman lead an underrated Grace defense.
SOUTH PITTSBURG PIRATES (3-0, 1-0) at MARION COUNTY WARRIORS (1-3, 1-0)
Last time: South Pittsburg won 64-0 last year.
This time: The Warriors are allowing more than 41 points per game but have scored at least five touchdowns in their last two games. The Pirates are averaging 47 points and last week allowed two Sequatchie County runners to rush for more than 100 yards. The scoreboard operator could get a workout tonight. While the Pirates have outscored Marion 227-40 to equal their longest win streak in series history with five straight, the Warriors have won six of the last 10 games played in Jasper.
Time to shine: Sophomore RB Jajuan Lankford and junior RB Demetric "Little Man" Johnson are each averaging more than 100 yards rushing per game for the Pirates, and junior QB Jake Stone has completed nearly 60 percent of his passes for another 162 per game without an interception. Marion QB Matt Zeman helped the Warriors roll up 442 total yards last week and ran for three TDs. His younger brother Blake, a freshman, added two TD runs and averaged nearly 8 yards per carry. Hamilton Shoemaker added 74 rushing yards for Marion.
DALTON CATAMOUNTS (2-1) at ALLATOONA BUCCANEERS (3-0)
Last time: Dalton won 21-17 last year.
This time: The Catamounts earned their most impressive win of 2010 at Harmon Field against the Bucs, but winning at Allatoona tonight will require more from an undersized yet energetic defense that has allowed a total of seven points in the last two weeks. Allatoona, Region 7-AAA's only ranked team, is in its fourth year of existence and is thriving with its first senior class.
Time to shine: A fractured fibula has shelved Dalton TB Tre Beck for at least a month, removing the team's key offensive weapon. However, senior Tre Bonds (5-9, 170) may be even faster. He stepped in last week against Gilmer County and had over 150 yards on just six carries. The Cats also rely on FB Matt Cobb (5-10, 220) and need QB Cole Calfee to keep the defense honest by hitting some passes early. Allatoona rides the strong legs of TB Miles Jones and the accurate passes of QB Jeremy Uzee in a run-first offense that will strike deep when it gets a defense selling out to stop Jones. The main strength of the team is its defensive front, led by Bryson Brindle and Dexter Brandon.
CHATTOOGA INDIANS (1-2) at CALHOUN YELLOW JACKETS (3-0)
Last time: Calhoun won 40-0 last year.
This time: Any team that wants to compete with the second-ranked Jackets must find a way to keep the ball for extended drives, something Dalton had success with in the season opener. Unfortunately for the Indians, though, a good bit of their scoring has come on big plays, and with several players starting both ways, it's a tall order to contain a Calhoun offense that is just beginning to hit its stride.
Time to shine: The Indians have a mobile quarterback in senior Nathan Schuster, who has committed to play at Georgia State, and they need him to play as he did against Pepperell, when he had over 100 yards rushing and passing, instead of last week's 54-yard passing game against Armuchee. Running back Ronnell Sims is averaging over 100 yards and has six touchdowns. Calhoun's spread offense is featuring the Lamb attack, QB Taylor to his cousin, Ben. The two have hooked up for four touchdowns in the last two games and Taylor Lamb has proven to be a weapon on the ground as well. The Calhoun defense has gotten back to its usual aggressive self behind senior LBs Alex Kirby, Hunter Knight and Gabe Freeman.